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We read with interest the short report by van Aar et al. discussing potential implications of chlamydia expedited partner therapy (EPT) which entails patient delivered partner therapy.1 The authors highlight a number of factors which may influence the benefit-risk balance of providing EPT, many of which resonate with our experience of Accelerated Partner Therapy (APT).2 APT is an adaptation of EPT, which includes a telephone consultation between the sex partner and prescriber (to meet UK prescribing guidance), provision of a self-sampling kit for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV for a sex partner in addition to antibiotics and information on STIs and HIV. APT has been piloted among predominately heterosexual contacts of chlamydia and gonorrhoea.3
The authors report a chlamydia positivity rate of 34.2% among chlamydia-notified partners in the Netherlands and proposed that the use of EPT for all contacts risks exposing the majority of contacts to potentially unnecessary antimicrobial therapy. Furthermore, just over 1% of these contacts also had gonorrhoea, accounting for about 10% of all gonorrhoea infections detected during the study time period, raising additional concerns about inadequate therapy and antimicrobial resistance.
In England in 2016, chlamydia positivity among chlamydia contacts attending specialist sexual health services (SHS) was 40%, representing 19% of all chlamydia diagnoses made in SHS that year.4 This is...
In England in 2016, chlamydia positivity among chlamydia contacts attending specialist sexual health services (SHS) was 40%, representing 19% of all chlamydia diagnoses made in SHS that year.4 This is similar to the positivity reported by van Aar. A different pattern is seen in the 2016 English National Chlamydia Screening Programme audit, which is restricted to 15 to 24 year olds testing in any setting (health and non-healthcare). Positivity in contacts was 62% suggesting that in this age-group the majority would benefit from empirical treatment.5 Therefore, the appropriateness of EPT/APT within different populations (defined by age or by testing service type) may vary depending on chlamydia prevalence within the population group of interest, willingness to access testing and testing location. The time between exposure and testing is not reported by van Aar but could contribute to lower positivity among contacts if they test within two weeks of exposure.
A key difference between EPT and APT is the inclusion of self-sampling kit for STIs, including HIV, in addition to antibiotics and information. We agree with the authors that testing for partners is an essential component of clinical management and every effort should be made to link testing and treatment practices. This can facilitate further rounds of partner notification (PN) and ensure that those at risk of infections are tested for a range of STIs. The acceptability and uptake of self-sampling in general appears to be high and in the APT pilot, chlamydia and gonorrhoea self-sampling kits were returned by 55% of contacts receiving the APT intervention.3 6
The authors state that EPT should not be recommended ‘for sex partners with a migration background from STI/HIV endemic regions’ even if self-sampling kits were included, because their data showed high rates of coinfections and greater potential to miss STIs in these populations. This may assume that EPT would reach the same populations as patient referral. However, EPT and APT could offer opportunities to treat and test partners who may otherwise not be notified or would not attend healthcare settings – people who might otherwise be missed by traditional PN approaches. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the acceptability and uptake of EPT/APT among sex partners and the index may potentially be influenced by socio-cultural norms and thereby, future studies should seek to explore the impact of these factors.
A large scale APT chlamydia PN randomised controlled trial will be starting in the UK in summer 2018 and will involve the index partners delivering an ‘APT pack’ to eligible partners.7 These packs will contain chlamydia treatment and self-sampling kits for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis in an attempt to increase testing among partners. This trial will provide evidence on the cost-effectiveness of APT in addition to greater understanding of sex partners’ readiness to provide samples for testing using self-sampling kits. Importantly, the APT intervention has been informed by a robust theoretical framework and behavioural change techniques. Further research on the feasibility of using EPT/APT among men who have sex with men is needed and will be conducted as part of this study.
If we are to improve PN outcomes, irrespective of how PN is delivered, a range of options will be required, tailored to meet the needs of patients and their partners. Thus EPT/APT are a valuable addition to PN strategies.
This article is written on behalf of the LUSTRUM team (www.lustrum.org.uk/co-investigators). The LUSTRUM Programme of Research is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (Reference Number RP-PG-0614-20009). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. The funders had no involvement in the writing of this manuscript or the decision to submit for publication.
1. van Aar F, van Benthem BHB, van den Broek IVF, et al. STIs in sex partners notified for chlamydia exposure: implications for expedited partner therapy. Sex Transm Infect 2018.
2. Dombrowski JC, Golden MR. Accelerated partner therapy: a promising new partner treatment option. Sex Transm Infect 2012;88(1):2-3.
3. Estcourt C, Sutcliffe L, Cassell J, et al. Can we improve partner notification rates through expedited partner therapy in the UK? Findings from an exploratory trial of Accelerated Partner Therapy (APT). Sex Transm Infect 2012;88(1):21-6.
4. Public Health England. Table 7: STI diagnoses & partner notification, 2012 - 2016. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil....
5. Public Health England. Partner notification in chlamydia screening. National Audit Report. May 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil....
6. Fajardo-Bernal L, Aponte-Gonzalez J, Vigil P, et al. Home-based versus clinic-based specimen collection in the management of Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015(9):CD011317.
7. LUSTRUM. Limiting Undetected Sexually Transmitted Infections to Reduce Morbidity Study Website. https://www.lustrum.org.uk/ Last accessed 18th January 2018.